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A Comparison of Hard Drive Sizes 1979 – 2011 [Image]

Akemi Iwaya (Asian Angel) is our very own Firefox Fangirl who enjoys working with multiple browsers and loves 'old school' role-playing games. Visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 10/11/11

Comments (28)

  1. Rusty Gates

    Originally I thought this was going to be a chart comparing the exponential growth of storage size instead of physical size.
    I would like to see that chart, although this is still impressive.

  2. Paul

    They used to be bigger. Check out this coffee table made out of a platter.

    http://www.grandideastudio.com/portfolio/hard-drive-coffee-table/

  3. Greg Toland

    … and sadly I have used all of these and more in my computing career since 1977 !!

    This includes so called removable drives which held 10MB and were each the size of a washing machine. The removable part was some 18 inches in diameter and consisted of about 10 platters making it about 12 inches deep.

    Those were the days of heavy weight computing :-)

  4. keltari

    wasnt this picture on HTG a few months ago?

  5. Juergen

    It is amazing that, besides the miniaturizing, we essentially still use the same technology.

  6. codedincantation

    It’s interesting to know that it’s getting smaller and smaller because of technology.

  7. anybodysguess

    Isn’t the biggest one a eighty pounder from a Cray super computer?

  8. zdravo

    Only one thing I know and it is:

    Todays HDD are very bad quality.
    They can be defect if the HDD is brand new.
    That’s unthinkable…

  9. Ryan

    Smaller and Lighter!
    Very Convenient that as I get older the computers get smaller and lighter . . .
    Those other old timers, who lugged the old AST’s, AT&T(Lead Boxes), IBM PC Servers and several other brands, know what I mean!
    Although we had plenty of time to lug them around and crimp our bnc connectors while Novell 1.xx was taking hours to install, diskette by diskette by diskette. . .
    It’s all so much better now! Including the hard drive reliability zdravo.

  10. Perry

    Intersting picture. But I would also like to know how much data each one of these stored. I’m guessing as they get smaller they also grow in storage capacity by an order of magnitude.

  11. Clifton

    The largest one is similar to the 5MB one I used in the early 80s. The second one which I, fortunately, missed appears to be a 5.25” (Look up Quantum Bigfoot – 19.2GB). From there we seem to go to a 3.5″, 2.5″, 1.8″, and one I am not familiar with (Wikipedia lists a 1” and 0.85”). As far as capacities go, the 3.5” at 4TB and the 2.5” at 1.5TB both represent comparable densities. The 1.8” (largest capacity 320GB) are somewhat limited by their form factor, while the 1.3”, 1”, and 0.85” have mostly been replaced by flash. The 3.5” has been around for a long time, in several form factors (half-height, slim, low-profile) while the capacities have grown from my first 210MB drive to my latest 2TB (I am not an early adapter), so size is not all that counts.

  12. JupiterIsBig

    I dropped a spanner “wrench” on the platter of one of those big ones when I did work experience at school ! They were so expensive when I started work we had some Honeywell hardware that used 8″ floppies.

  13. scadaman29325

    Off topic?
    Any of y’all remember working with paper punch tape, key punch cards, iron core memory…?
    US Navy 1985.

    Later, Phil

  14. utomo

    I suggest that the harddisk manufacturer starting again to manufacture big harddisk.
    because now the data center and many company need a huge harddisk.

    I believe if harddisk manufacturer producing again 5.25″ harddisk the capacity will be huge.
    and we did not need many harddisk like now.
    we only need 1 harddisk to handle 5-10 TB or more

    just my 2c

  15. zepe

    The first HDD I ever bought was a 20MB drive that fit into an expansion slot on my Compaq transportable. That computer was about the same size and weight as a portable sewing machine. I paid $100.00 for it and that was used. It was before 3.5″ floppies. My machine had two 5.25″ floppy drives and the diskettes were a whopping 160k. When I got the 20MB drive I remember saying to someone that, “I can store the world on this thing!”

  16. Otto

    Title should read something like “A Comparison of Hard Drive Sizes 1979 – 2007″ as I was impressed with this pic way back then and the date on the file is 2008/04/14 so it might be older than that – OK I see it says Date Taken 2008/03/01, 13:52 Camera Samsung Techwin KENOX S730 etc.etc….
    :(

  17. Cirric

    @scadaman29325. Yup! Paper tape was punched on a Flex-o-writer. Key punch cards were still in use. It has been a great ride!

  18. spike986

    What about the SSD, don’t that get a look in?

  19. Mark

    Standard PC hard drives are still 3.5″ though, those smaller ones are for mobile devices. SSD is replacing them anyway so it doesn’t matter.

  20. Doug

    My first experience with a “hard drive” was in a Royal RPC 2000 computer that had a drum memory about the size of a small garbage can. I think it may have had about a 2K capacity. It really wasn’t a hard drive drive; I think was used like RAM. We used to have a lot of multi-platter HDs that mounted in chassis’ that looked like washing machines. I think some were in the order of 10 or 20 surfaces.
    Then, later there were the cartridge drives that used platters about the size of a pizza pan encased in a plastic shell.
    I paid $300 for my first HD. It was a 30 MB RLL drive used in an 8088 (V20 chip) and the only drive I’ve had crash since then.

  21. George

    SSDs are indeed replacing HDDs. It is really amazing. I know the site MyDigitalSSD has some of the best solid state drives that I have seen to date. Very very cool stuff. blows HDDs away. can’t wait to see how much more they evolve over time.

  22. Javier

    My first PC had 256 MB HD and it was a really big box, now I have 8GB in a micro SD… not to mention the current HD

  23. Kahomono

    I worked in a large commercial bank’s data center in the early ’80s. We had HDAs like the big one in the background.

    My laptop has more storage than the entire Chemical Bank data center had in 1982 for six mainframes and about twenty minis

  24. kink

    As they get smaller, they get bigger! Hard drive-seption!

  25. FMR

    Had to learn the Biomedical Statistical Program to write my thesis. About 1300 PUNCH CARDS and if one comma, period, space or anything else out of sequence, the program wouldn’t do the calculations. Looking back, I wonder how I ever did it.

  26. TreeFrog

    As a lad I delivered liquid nitrogen (to a hospital) that had the largest digital storage (in the country) at the time. The LN was used to cool twenty of the biggest(!) HDDs you’ve ever seen.

    These things were washing machine sized, they ate 400v DC, you needed a degree in computing(!) to drive them and when they were all spin-up it sounded like a four mill at full throttle!

    Total Capacity of all twenty drives: 960 mb!

  27. bob

    I like the current, but you can do better then that on the history. I am an old f’er and remember replacing these room size disks that held a few meg with some ass kicking shoe boxes. My Mac Air I am writing this on is a 1000x+ on this.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_IBM_magnetic_disk_drives

    Glad to into solid state!

  28. Mark

    I would LOVE a high res (1920 x 1080 or more) version of this for my desktop image cycle :)

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